Beekeeping for Beginners: Honeybee Basics

Discover the basics of the honeybee, propolis, royal jelly benefits and more information on beekeeping for beginners.


| 2013 Guide to Backyard Bees and Honey



Resting Bee

A bee at rest. Notice the head, thorax and abdomen.

Photo By Stockphoto/Antagain

The lure of honey seems to have always been a strong incentive to people of all backgrounds across many cultures. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, Israelites and Romans are all known to have tended bees in locations as diverse as Africa, Europe and Asia. The ancient Maya also kept a variety of stingless (albeit less prolific) bees in Central America. But the bees we know and use today in North America are descendants of Western honeybees, which were developed in Europe and carried across the ocean by American colonists. Even prior to the 1700s, established beehives were already in place across New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

One problem that beekeepers faced throughout all these times was that there wasn’t a good way of harvesting the honey. Harvesting could involve the destruction of all or part of the hive depending on the type of hive used. Smoking the hives with sulfur was also sometimes used to kill the entire colony of bees, which would leave the physical hive intact but result in the destruction of all the bees.

All of this changed in the mid-1800s, when L.L. Langstroth of Pennsylvania developed a new style of beehive, which is still in use today. The Langstroth hive is special because it is made of individual components that can be easily taken apart and examined without upsetting the bees or destroying their work. The bees in this kind of hive build their combs and store their honey on a series of movable frames, which can be easily and nondestructively removed when it’s time to harvest honey. (For more on the Langstroth hive, see Reverend Langstroth and Beehive History.)

Today, beekeeping means different things to different people. For some it’s a business (of both honey collection and professional crop pollination services), but for many others it’s a lovely, enjoyable hobby that can give a lifetime of pleasure.

Members of the hive

A beehive is made up of three distinct types of bees:

1. Workers





mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!

LEARN MORE